*This article original appeared on The Urban Deer Complex Blog.
The most common remark I am met with is “I want to be a hunter.”
I’ve never felt that there was a direct response that could easily point people in the right direction and simultaneously still encourage them to start hunting. When we, as hunters, tell non-hunters all the necessary steps that must be taken, they are often discouraged by the sheer amount of work they’ll have to put into hunting before they can even go out. Maybe there isn’t an encouraging and direct way to say it, but here are the five steps that will make hunting a reality for you.
Hunter Safety Course
Firstly, in order to buy a hunting license (yes, that is a requirement everywhere), you must take a hunter’s safety course. So what is a hunter’s safety course? A hunter’s safety course is a state organized weekend long course, (varying in length) that covers the most basic and profoundly important aspect of hunting- safety. The first thing any prospective hunter must understand is that safety is the only constant in this sport.
It is not solely about the safety of yourself our others, but also the ethical obligation to your prey. In the course you will learn some rudimentary hunting skills, like the basics of tracking and locating the vitals (or killzone), of your game, but for the most part you will listen to hours of elementary survival tactics, weapon safety, game laws and regulations. This is the first and most necessary part of becoming a hunter. It is the leap that shows you are truly serious about cutting your business off with your local butcher.
To get this arduous and essential step out of the way, google search your local hunter’s safety courses and sign up. The best part? It only costs your time and not your money. (Note, there are two types of safety courses, archery and firearms. The weapon you plan on harvesting with determines which course you should sign up for)
The Right Gear
Instead of me lecturing you on what you should wear when hunting, go to your local sporting goods store, and check out the hunting apparel. These stores have entire departments dedicated to outfitting hunters and their retail associates are usually extremely knowledgeable on what hunting basics you will need. You never know, maybe your North Face gear will suffice. Keep in mind that hunting is not like hanging out in your yard or going on a camping trip.
You will probably be in wet, cold, and windy weather, and any other mess Mother Nature sees fit to bless you with. Trust me when I say that once you become a hunter, you will never look at the weather the same again. Whether you are hunting the suburbs or the mountains, use your head and plan accordingly. You will quickly learn the vast difference in clothing diversity as you experience that such things as staying still, to moving can significantly change the effectiveness of clothing.
Learn to Shoot
One of the most important steps in the statement I want to be a hunter is understanding your weapon and being able to shoot it. As a bowhunter, I will tell you the truth. I am a hunter that happens to use a bow. What I am trying to say is that just because I am an archer, I am not an expert in all things archery related. The reason why archery shops are called pro shops are for that reason. I have a professional who tunes my bow and sets it up to fit me.
So if you haven’t already figured it out, bows are custom fit to the buyer. Buying a bow is like buying a car. There are countless different sizes, some are fast, some are smooth, some are expensive and some are cheap. Whatever bow you go with at the end of the day, you must master that bow. They will usually offer lessons at the pro shop and teach you how to shoot straight, and I guarantee you will not at first.
From that point on, practice, practice, practice. You have taken on the moral responsibility for your food source and you owe the animal on the other end of your bow a clean and ethical harvest.
By this point you should understand the hunting laws and seasons from step one, and you should have bought a hunting license. Now venture into the woods and hunt your game. I will tell you this, there is no better teacher than your own failures. Hunting is not easy, despite what preconceived notions mainstream America has about it.
Let’s get something straight right now. Hunting is about being part of a sustainable eco-system. Truthfully, hunters go home more often without a harvest than they do with one. What entices hunters to continually go out and try to harvest is the hunt itself; it’s a life changing experience that will alter your perspective on food and nature forever. If you think it’s only about killing, then you are doing it wrong.
Learn how to enjoy the fresh air and the hours spent in the silence of nature. There will be many of them.
The final step is becoming good at hunting. That requires you to learn a mess of advanced skills and techniques that will culminate as a million moments of hard work and planning for one second that will reaffirm why you started hunting in the first place. The harvest. The 100% organic and sustainable meat that you poured your own blood, sweat, and tears into, instead of simply going to the grocery store. There are plenty of hunters in the woods that will help you and banter about hunting theory with you over time.
Hunters have passed down hundreds of years of tradition; often (unfairly) framed as rednecks and hicks with little education. They are good, friendly, down-to-earth people, and as long as you do not talk politics, trust me you will be safe. There is already a name for green and sustainable living- it’s called hunting.
You will be able to find answers, theories, ideas, and anything on the internet. One great site is Basic Huntsman, which really hits true on the I want to be a hunter statement. It’s no different than learning anything else. I suggest you strive to find out new ideas and angles, and learn about the tactics you’ve never heard of, like “hunting the wind”, “scent control”, “blood tracking”, “still hunting.” The list is endless.
Of course, you could help support me and get a headstart on all of this by buying my book, The Urban Deer Complex. I had each and every person over the years that had told me, “I want to go hunting” in mind when I wrote it.
So above all have fun, learn, find yourself in the wilderness, and be safe.